It makes sense we feel connections with people in the public eye. You observe them on television, in film, on stage or follow them through social media. You probably like their show, love their movie, own their art, listen to their music or read their writing. You probably feel, on some level, you know them.
I can understand all this, which makes it difficult for me to explain the ways I don’t understand.
Even as a teenager, at the alleged peak of celebrity obsessions, I was disinterested. I mean, I had ‘celebrity crushes’ but hanging pictures of these strangers on my bedroom wall (no matter how cute they were) seemed weird to me. What posters I did possess were stuck under the lid of my storage chest away from prying eyes – pictures of animals and ALF. Yes, ALF – who’s a puppet. While my pin-up choices made sense in my head, my friends were infatuated with television personalities, bands and film stars. When one friend tried to entice me to get an autograph from a local celebrity, I replied, ‘What for? He wouldn’t want mine’. I managed to confuse my friend, who couldn’t find an argument against it and nevertheless wandered off for the autograph without me.
That’s not to imply I wouldn’t want to meet the famous people I admire. Unfortunately, when those opportunities present themselves I imagine myself standing with a gazillion other people who may or may not be screaming for the off chance of a short conversation that may or may not be meaningless. Of course, this standard of mine means I’m unlikely to ever meet them in any capacity. Which perhaps makes me all the poorer.
Look. Can’t we just meet for a coffee?
I find myself feeling sorry for well-known people. Some are better at negotiating ‘celebrity’ than others but I often see the down side.
I follow Emma Watson on Twitter and some months ago now she tweeted this:
“I told my dad I am learning to touch type and he said he still uses the ‘hunt and peck’ technique. And now I’m crying laughing. #dads”
Charming, right? One of the responses to this comment was vile. Irrelevant and vile. At the time I saw it, it had thirteen RTs and several more tagged it as a favourite. I realise that’s a relatively small portion of her followers but I still got the heebie-jeebies on Emma’s behalf.
Then there was this photo that did the rounds on Twitter
Should this treatment be part of being famous? Really? Taking pictures of them doing things unrelated to their job? With their kids in the park? In the supermarket? But I guess it fills me with horror because I would hate it happening to me.
In my teens I witnessed a girl scream when she unexpectedly meet a actor from an Australian soapie. A short and shocked ‘argh!’ like she’d just uncovered a spider. I admit, it is odd seeing people from television/film in public (it’s a bit like when you’re a child and see your school teacher at the supermarket), but scream? Without meaning to sound like Spock, this response seemed illogical.
I once saw Miriam Margolyes at the airport (she notably played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films) and I kept well away. She looked like she wanted to be swallowed by the world and avoided making eye contact with anyone.
But there is a market for it. People buy celebrity magazines. I have family and friends who buy them. Some ‘celebrities’ probably buy them. And I don’t understand it at all. So when The Daily Post asked the question, ‘Who did you idolise as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?’, I couldn’t relate to this either.
I know I’ve way over-thought this, but sometimes I feel we use the word ‘idolise’ too freely; we feel it more than we think about why. We give more weight to attractiveness than we do to identity. We mix up actors with the characters they play, we confuse popularity with talent and fame with worth. What am I idolising exactly?
I don’t like people on pedestals. I’m not saying you can’t look up to people, only that I prefer admiration over adoration and respect over worship. Some of the kindest, extraordinary, admirable, inspiring and talented people are not well-known at all.
Who are your non-famous idols? Do you have an autograph of someone you admire and if so what does it mean to you?